Drowning Prevention & Swim Safety Tips For Kids (Infographic)

In honor of National Drowning Prevention Month, we thought we would deviate a little from the usual pool how-to topics and delve into possibly the most important how-to topic of all: how to keep your kids safe from drowning and injury.

As a dad of two young kids myself, you can imagine the fears and concerns I had when we first decided to install a pool in our backyard.

Because in case you didn’t know, there are about 10 drowning deaths a day in the U.S. alone.

Those are some scary statistics, my friend!

But that is why I read everything I could get my hands on and still make swimming safety priority number one in our pool.

You can be sure that I don’t take it lightly and would never own a pool if I didn’t feel sure I could keep my family safe.

And I know you feel the same way.

That’s what this guide is all about.


6 Drowning Facts To Know

Here are some facts about drowning that will hopefully get your attention right off the bat.

  • 1
    According to Kids Health, “Drowning is the second most common cause of death from injuries among kids under the age of 14.” Yikes! That’s a startling statistic.
  • 2
    Drowning happens fast. A kid can drown in 20 seconds. So just vowing to keep an eye on them is not enough. Once they fall in the pool, their lungs fill with water so fast that you may not have time to save them.
  • 3
    According to Safe Kids Worldwide, “Among preventable injuries, drowning is the leading cause of death for children 1 – 4 years old.” And children this age are more likely to drown in a pool than anywhere else.
  • 4
    Children can drown in as little as 1 inch of water. Healthy Children states that most infant drownings happen in buckets or bathtubs.
  • 5
    “Every year in the U.S., 945 children under age 20 die from drowning.” And it can happen in pools, hot tubs, buckets, tubs, lakes, oceans and other bodies of water.
  • 6
    Children who don’t die in near drowning incidents can suffer brain damage due to hypoxia

11 Ways To Protect Your Kids Around The Water

Now that you know all the scary facts, let’s talk about how we can arm ourselves with the proper tools and information to keep your kids safe.

  • Swimming lessons. There are lots of things you can do to put yourself at ease, but the very first thing I would do is to get them in swimming lessons as soon as they are old enough (more on that later).
  • Constant adult supervision. Before your children learn to swim, supervision should literally be hands-on. Half of most kids who drown are within 25 yards of a parent or other adult. That means you shouldn’t let them out of your grasp or eyesight when you are in or near a body of water. 
  • Install a 4-sided fence. Putting a fence around your pool is not just a good idea, it’s actually enforced by law in most states. Most pool fences are 4 feet tall and completely surround the pool. They are also usually have a gate with a secure latch that can be locked.
  • Make sure your fence has a secure latch. Speaking of latches, make sure yours is self-closing and self-latching. A gate doesn’t do much good if someone forgets to close it. It’s also best to choose a gate with a latch close to the top and away from little hands.
  • Install a pool alarm. There are several different types of pool alarms: surface wave detection alarms, subsurface detection alarms, pool immersion alarms, and door and gate alarms. Gate alarms are attached to your pool gate to alert you whenever someone opens it and the others are installed in your pool to alert you when someone or something enters it. They can also be adjusted to sensitivity so that the alarm will only sound when something of a certain weight disturbs the water.
  • Learn CPR. CPR is one of those skills you hope you never have to use, but when there are minutes to spare in a life-threatening situation, it could absolutely save your child. I recommend every adult and older child in your family learn this skill.
  • Keep them in the shallow end. Sure, there will come a time when they can graduate to the deep end, but younger children should always stay in the shallow end, even if they know how to swim. If a sudden cramp should come on, they need to be able to easily reach the bottom of the pool. 
  • Implement a buddy system. We’ve all heard of the buddy system, but it's super important for swimming pool safety. Of course, the buddy a younger child should have is you, but for older children whom you trust to swim well, they can possibly pair up and look out for each other. The point is that no one should ever swim alone. 
  • Use Coast Guard-approved flotation devices. Many people mistakenly assume that pool toys like noodles and floaties are good devices to help prevent drowning. But these are simply designed to be toys, not to save lives. Arm floaties and ring floaties may be fine if your toddler will be within your grasp and eyesight in a pool, but they are never okay to use alone if a child cannot swim well. Only use devices approved by the U.S. Coast Guard when safety is an issue, especially when in a boat or swimming in a large body of water.
  • Keep a safety ring with a rope close by. You may have never seen one of these used and may think of it as just a part of pool aesthetics, but they are a very important tool for rescue.
  • Empty portable pools when not in use. Remember earlier, when I told you that a child can drown in two inches of water? And what is more tempting to a 3 year-old than the portable pool they were playing in the day before? NEVER leave water in these, and in fact, don’t even leave them out. Drain them and hang them in the garage or shed. Don’t give them a chance to collect rainwater your child could potentially drown in.

Why CPR Is So Important

When someone’s heart stops beating and the blood stops flowing, they’ll lose consciousness within about 15 seconds.

Then, in another 30 to 60 seconds, they stop breathing, and are in danger of damaging their brain irreversibly.

This is where cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, comes in.

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CPR, when executed properly, is designed to get the heart pumping again and keep oxygen flowing to the brain and other organs. 

Becoming certified to perform CPR is one of the most important things you can do to keep your family safe.

But be sure to ask for a class that includes child and infant CPR if you have children. The procedures are different for children and adults. 

Knowing The Signs Of Drowning

Lifeguards are well-trained to recognize the signs of drowning, and that’s because they’re not always as obvious as you think. 

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While adults might think to wave their hands for help, a kid is just trying to stay afloat and may not know how to signal for help.

They also are unlikely to yell for help because they are unable to breathe.

According to Mama Mia, “drowning is almost always a deceptively quiet event.” Here is what to look for:

  • Head tilted back with mouth open
  • Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus
  • Eyes closed
  • Hair over forehead or eyes
  • Not using legs — vertical
  • Hyperventilating or gasping
  • Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway
  • Trying to roll over on the back
  • Appear to be climbing an invisible ladder
  • Head low in the water, mouth at water level
Read: How to choose the best pool clarifier

4 Ways To Educate Your Kids On Swimming Safety

The most important part of pool safety is educating your kids to take care of themselves in the water.

This doesn’t mean that you leave them on their own the second they learn to swim.

It just means that if they find themselves in a dangerous situation when you are not around, they'll have the tools to try to save themselves. 

#1. Start Them Early

You can start your baby out as early as 6 months old by taking them into the water with you to get used to the pool.

You can also enroll them in “Mommy and Me Swim Classes” that will teach you more about infant safety and get them ready to start learning to swim.

Don’t get overconfident in their abilities, though.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that they are not developmentally able to learn to swim effectively until about 3 or 4 years of age.

#2. Enroll Them In Swim Lessons

But DO enroll them as soon as they are able.

Your local YMCA or public pool facility will probably offer swim lessons for every age group starting at 3 years old. 

Enroll them every year while they are young to give them the best swimming advantage and help them brush up on their rules and basics before swim season.

#3. Teach Them Basic Water Safety

After your child can swim fairly well, you should be testing them on these 5 basic skills every single year.

Make sure your child can:

  • Float or tread water for one minute
  • Turn around in a full circle and find an exit
  • Swim 25 yards to exit the water
  • Exit the water without using a ladder
  • Step or jump into water over their heads and swim to the surface

#4. Teach Them To Always Swim With An Adult

Once your child becomes more comfortable with their swimming skills, they'll probably feel like they can swim alone, but drill into their heads that this is never acceptable.

Teach them to never step foot into a body of water without an adult, no matter how good a swimmer they become.

12 Other Important Pool Safety Tips

On top of drowning, there are other things you should be concerned with as well.

There are all kinds of serious injuries that can occur around and in the pool. Some can lead to drowning, and others just to pain.

But keeping everyone safe around the pool means preventing all kinds of injury whenever possible.

#1 Diving Is Dangerous

Diving can lead to serious injury or death if not done properly. In fact, about 800 spinal cord injuries occur from diving each year.


And some people assume that if they never install a diving board, they'll eliminate this risk, but the fact is that less than 10% of all diving injuries actually involve a diving board.

Spinal cord injuries and paralysis can occur when the diver miscalculates the depth of the pool while diving from any spot.

So, how deep should a pool be for diving safety?

The American Red Cross says that a pool should be a minimum of 9 feet deep for headfirst diving.

That means that an above-ground pool is NEVER safe for diving.

If you do install a pool that deep, make sure everyone in your family is well-trained before they attempt diving. Safe diving is a skill and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

#2. Beware Medical Conditions

If your child has asthma, seizures, or other health concerns that may make cause him to lose consciousness or stop breathing, it's even more important that you never leave his side.

It’s also a good idea to speak to their pediatrician about safety measures and precautions you should take in the pool.

#3. Watch Your Water Temperatures

Water temperatures matter. In fact, cold water can kill you in less than a minute. (Be sure to invest in a good pool thermometer).

But the real shocker is what is considered cold.

Pool Care Guy Tip

Water below 77°F is enough to slow your breathing and below 70°F can feel like ice water unless you are swimming competitively. 

It can also spike your blood pressure and cause hyperventilation and increased heart rate, making it especially dangerous for people with health concerns.

For us everyday swimmers, the ideal pool temps are anywhere between 77°F and 82°F, though some resorts tend to keep the waters at a balmy 84°F. 

Read: How to choose the best pool heater

For people who are extremely active in the pool, keeping the temps toward the low end of this range is best to prevent overheating and dehydration.

But for most pools, keeping it on the warmer end is fine. Just test out the temps in the range and see what feels best to you.

#4. Swim At Pools With Lifeguards

If you choose to take your kids to a public pool, choose one where lifeguards on duty.

In addition to your own presence with your children, it doesn’t hurt to have an extra set of trained eyes on the situation.

#5. No Horseplay

No one wants to be the parent who sucks all the fun out of swimming, but allowing too much horseplay can lead to serious issues.

Not only can children injure each other by causing too much water to get in the lungs, the movement and noise could actually cause you not to notice.

Keep the horseplay to a minimum and absolutely forbid dunking.

Read: How to choose the best pool cleaner

#6. Be Aware Of Pool Surroundings

You probably remember your parents yelling at you as a kid to “walk, don’t run!” around the pool. And with good reason.

Water on any surface makes it a little more slippery and unstable, so the risk of falling greatly multiplies around the pool.

If you have concrete surroundings, you need to be especially vigilant about outside pool activity, but even wooden surfaces can cause you to lose footing if you’re not careful.

And any falls around a pool can lead to head injury or cause someone to fall into the pool who can’t swim well. Or worse, hurt their head as they fall in, causing a possible drowning situation.

Monitor your kids’ activity both in and out of the pool and train them to be cautious about running around the edges.

Channel your own parents’ voices you’ve been pushing down if you must, post signs along the fences, or just remove pool privileges if they still refuse to listen. 

Pool safety is way too important to not stay on top of it.

#7. No Gum Allowed!

This rule isn’t just to keep stuff out of your pool, it’s also to prevent choking hazards.

If you’re eating or chewing gum while swimming, you run the risk of getting a big gulp of pool water in your mouth that accidentally washes it down your throat before you’re ready.

Not to mention the fact that laughing and playing in general can cause you to choke on anything you are chewing.

#8. No Night Swimming

Night swimming might seem like a lot of fun and if the adults want to take a midnight dip, that is up to them.

But for children, it’s just a bad idea.

It makes it difficult to see ladders and exits and gage what depth of water you’re in.

And it makes it difficult for anyone else to see them should they have an accident or accidentally get in over their heads. 

Just lock it up and turn on your pool alarm at night. It’s just not worth the risk.

#9.No Alcohol With The Kids Around

Having a pina colada by the pool might be great for adults having a relaxing day, but forego the booze altogether if you’re monitoring the kids.

Impaired judgment can cause delayed reactions to unexpected emergencies.

#10.Beware Drain Entrapment

Entrapment can happen when a child or even an adult gets stuck on an uncovered drain.

And entanglement can occur when someone’s hair, swimming suit or jewelry gets tangled up in a ladder, drain or other pool equipment.

Both of these can cause drowning. But there’s more!

Sitting on a drain without the proper cover can even cause disembowelment.

Make sure you take the proper precautions to keep these tragedies from affecting your family.

  • If you have an older pool, replace the drain covers immediately with new ones, or hire an expert to cover them properly. New drain covers are made to prevent such injury, but some of the older ones were not.
  • Don’t swim with loose clothing, jewelry or unsecured long hair. Tie your kids’ hair into buns, remove jewelry and don’t allow them to swim in street clothes.
  • Only run your pool pump at the recommended setting.
  • Make sure the safety shut off switch for your pump is clearly labeled and that everyone knows where to find it.

#11. Don't Forget The Sunscreen!

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, “Increasing intermittent sun exposure in childhood and during one’s lifetime is associated with an increased risk of squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma and melanoma.”

This might not be a drowning hazard, but it's certainly a serious health concern.

Make sure everyone always wears a sunscreen with at least SPF 30, and re-apply regularly. Their future health depends on it!

#12. Remove Your Pool Cover!

Never swim with the pool cover partially on the pool. Too many things can go wrong! 

Your child can get tangled up in or swim underneath the cover and not be able to get out, or it can blow back over the pool with a strong wind. 

Remove it completely and put it away every time you swim.

Bottom Line

No one puts in a pool thinking someone will drown or get hurt, but unfortunately it does happen.

The best thing you can do is to educate yourself and your whole family on every detail of pool safety and make sure everyone is the best swimmer they can be.

And don’t neglect to immediately install pool safety devices such as a fence and pool alarm.

Your family can absolutely enjoy many years of poolside fun and entertainment, just don’t ever allow yourself to get too comfortable to be cautious.

Your family’s lives depend on it!

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